The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s107g06 Fourth Sunday of Easter 7/5/06
"other sheep .. listen to my voice" John 10.16
What a fascinating statement by Jesus! His words do not just inform those of us who, for all intents and purposes (because we come to Church), are listening, but others are listening as well (who are not here), and they have an equal share in being part of this "one flock, one shepherd".
As I have undertaken this ministry of putting my sermons on the internet, others are listening, others are reading, people are evaluating -- do my words really tie up with what I (i.e. they) have heard from Jesus .. The technology of the internet actually only reinforces (or not) that which our own experiences of the risen Jesus have disclosed to us.
And this is largely true of all our experiences. Each and every experience changes us. We find our perceptions either confirmed and we are able to move on a little further in our journey -- or we get our back up and find ourselves digging the hole we are making for ourselves a little deeper. But in either case we still move. Even if we were to hide away from all human interaction, we cannot avoid the ravages of time. Staying the same is actually an impossible dream.
And contained within this milieu of human interactions from which none of us can ever escape and that is the stuff of real life -- the voice of the Risen Jesus continues to be listened for, continues to be heard.
The voice of the risen Jesus is heard where one hears words of grace and peace. When one hears of injustices and oppression being exposed. When people are being helped to their feet. These are the voice of the Risen Christ.
Often I hear 'Christian' leaders purporting to speak the words of Christ -- challenging others. Frequently it is often those who pride themselves on their faithfulness to scripture and the word of God who do this. How curious this is! The word 'challenge' only appears once in the Bible I use, and it is used in the sense of someone challenging God -- that is opposing God. The text is: 'You set a snare for yourself and you were caught, O Babylon, but you did not know it; you were discovered and seized, because you challenged the LORD.' Jeremiah 50.24. The root of the word 'challenge' is a battle.
This is not the voice of the Risen Christ who thrice commands St Peter to feed his sheep -- to nurture and care for them -- not to challenge them.
Those who challenge others in the name of God have an inherent disposition to not hear the voice of God elsewhere, and inherently fail to see the Risen Christ in others. In their effort to impose their version of the gracious love of God onto others, they fail to realize that others might have a better handle on the extent of this love than they have. Their failure to recognize this means that they really continue to keep the gracious love of God to themselves as they only see it as something that flows from them to others, and ever deny it might flow the other way. In doing so they actually deny the gracious love God has for these others, prior to their intervention, but that denial will ever be doomed to failure.
So the words of the risen Christ are not just proclaimed here from a pulpit, or here on the internet, or there on a street corner. The words of the risen Christ are heard in our own hearts and in the hearts of all as we care for others -- as we listen for the voice of the Risen Christ in others.
Recently someone asked me if I was an "evangelical Anglican" or "an Anglican" and in the current situation I had to say I was not a "Sydney style Anglican". The person enquiring commented that I would be an high church Anglican then and I had to say I'm more like a secular humanist :-)!
It seems that there are a whole lot of different paths to tread and largely I do not mind whatever path people choose. I have been reading John Macquarrie's "Principles of Christian Theology" and it is a wonderful book and I am getting a lot out of it. But I sometimes wonder if his Jesus is a philosophical existential incarnation.
I want to say that whatever path we choose, whatever spirituality "grabs us" -- just as I have a spirituality that has "grabbed me", the distinctive Christian message is that: "other sheep Š listen to my voice" as well. Indeed, of course the plethora of various spiritualities that abound these days are a striking testament to this very fact.
A particular spirituality might be appropriate for us for a time, and then we might move on to something else. Young people are too busy living life to be meditative and reflective, and good on them. Our Anglican Church has a long and venerable tradition, but it cannot be imposed on everyone as they enter our (?) sacred spaces.
I would like to venture to suggest that we are indeed blessed by the shear number of spiritualities that abound. There is really no excuse for ever being bored, as the Anglican Church is often accused of having boring services.
Of course we all know people who will not listen to anyone else. They know best -- they know all the answers. They are not especially pleasant people to have around. And sadly it is they who miss out on hearing the voice of the risen Christ as they continue on their merry way.
Back to: "A Spark of the Spirit"